Rod Serling's The Twilight Zone premiered on October 2, 1959 and, over the course of its five-year run, would, churn out 156 episodes and cement itself as a classic of science-fiction television. Its influence would be felt in any number of shows and movies that would follow - from The Walking Dead to Stranger Things - and beyond, becoming one of the enduring pop culture staples of its era.
This Day in Twilight Zone History presents key commemorative facts about the greatest science-fiction/fantasy television series of all time, presented by author Steven Jay Rubin, whose latest book is The Twilight Zone Encyclopedia - (debuting this October). Whether it’s a key performer’s birth or death, the date an episode debuted or any other related fact, This Day in Twilight Zone History presents a unique aspect of the rich history of this television series and the extraordinary team that created it.
Today, October 22nd, This Day in Twilight Zone History celebrates the birth of director William F. Claxton (1914-1996) who helmed four episodes: “The Last Flight,” “The Jungle,” “The Little People,” and “I Sing the Body Electric.” The variety of these assignments reflects the eclectic ability of Claxton who was a major TV director in his day, going on to work on such shows as The High Chaparral, Bonanza, and Little House on the Prairie.
Since we see so little of them now, it’s important to note how challenging anthology shows were to the creative team. Every single episode began with a fresh story and script, new characters, different locations and special needs in the prop, wardrobe, set construction, sound, music, and makeup departments. As Rod Serling pointed out in his initial interview with journalist Mike Wallace, The Twilight Zone was really a collection of short movies, with absolutely no relationship to other episodes. Continuing character shows have the advantage of getting into a groove because the same people see each other each week on both sides of the camera. The Twilight Zone didn’t have that luxury, and yet it reached a level of consistent quality that is unprecedented.
Producer Buck Houghton is really the unsung hero of the series for securing MGM as a base for the series. By anchoring on that lot, The Twilight Zone had access to the finest actors and technicians in Hollywood.
Any of you TZ fans who are in or near Burbank today, please don’t hesitate to stop by Creature Features on Magnolia at 1PM. I’ll be signing copies of The Twilight Zone Encyclopedia. Cheers!